Part 1: Marijuana business owners can’t buy a home

Southern Oregon — Buying a home is a big and expensive step for anybody.

Most often, people go to a bank to get a home loan to make it possible.

But imagine your loan application was rejected, despite the fact that you have significant amounts of cash.

That’s what marijuana business owners are currently facing in Southern Oregon.

In the state of Oregon, owning a marijuana business is very much legal. But if the owner wanted to use money from that business to buy a home, as of today, they wouldn’t be able to.

“We’re just normal people running a business that’s okay in Oregon… Not okay in the Feds,” Emerald Triangle Dispensary owner Zack Kohler said.

Zack Kohler is the owner of Emerald Triangle Dispensary in Medford.

While he doesn’t have a huge history with cannabis, personally, he decided to open a shop when he noticed the benefits of the plant.

“Some people use it for highs, some people use it for medicinal needs and when you see people not seizure anymore due to it, than that’s pretty much the end game for me,” Kohler said.

Kohler says he’s passionate about helping people in the community, but he’s hit a few snags along the way.

He wasn’t aware when he poured all his time and money into creating the business, that he wouldn’t be able to use that money to buy a home.

“It’s definitely a huge thing that would make you think about doing it again,” Kohler said.

“You have these folks out there making thousands and thousands of dollars, and they cannot use that money in order to get a federal home loan,” James Beard said.

Area Manager James Beard has worked at Fairway Independent Mortgage for 21 years in Southern Oregon.

In the last few years. he says many marijuana-business owners have gone in to get a home loan only to be disappointed.

“If you think of home loans… Most are all government backed. So you have Fannie, Freddie, FHA, VA, USDA… They all fall under federal rules,” Kohler said.

Federally. marijuana is still illegal.

And since the money regulated through lenders is federal, money from the cannabis industry doesn’t meet the guidelines.

“Until that somehow gets straightened up between the states and the Feds — we’re a large government lender — we’re just not able to use that money,” Beard said.

With the national banking laws as they are, marijuana businesses can only use cash for transactions.

Kohler says if he ever does get to use a bank, the industry will be much safer.

“It’s one of those things where you want to be able to go in there and say ‘look what I’ve done… this is the business I have and it makes money’. But there’s no talking about it any which way,” Kohler said.

If you’re an employee instead of an owner at a marijuana business, you may be looked at a little bit different. However, banks say they still have to take it case by case when it comes to buying a home.

To watch part 2 of this series, click here.

NBC5 News Multimedia Journalist Elizabeth Ruiz was raised in Northern Colorado. She graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Journalism and Media Communication. She also minored in Spanish and studied in Spain. While at Colorado State, she was an anchor and reporter for CTV Channel 11.

Elizabeth loves Zumba dancing, singing and spending time with her family.

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